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situation more likely to ensure a well-laid foundation. The first object to be gained on the part of a teacher is, the attention of his juvenile disciples : that effected, he may mould their minds as he pleases. And truly the very appearance of my
first master, Mr. Brown, was sufficient to engage attention. He was a tall, portly man, with an ample face, and a keen eye, over which hung a brow that plainly told his scholars, if they were remiss in their duties, his able right arm would wield the cane or the rod, with which his desk was ever graced, to their sorrow. I have often thought, in later years, that his face responded to this sentiment of the poet, Cowper :
“ Plants raised with tenderness are seldom strong;
Like a neglected forester, runs wild." Still, with all this, Mr. Brown had a kind heart, and to me he was especially merciful. It has often been my boast, that I never tasted his cane or his rod.” On one occasion, however, I richly deserved it, and it was to his kindness alone that I owed my escape.
It was a fine afternoon in spring, and, tempted by the beauties which nature unfolded around my path, I resolved to roam abroad at pleasure. I did so for some little time without compunction. I gazed at the lark, as she soared upwards to the skies, hymning her note of praise, with delight; and gaily chased the bee and the butterfly, as they flew from flower to flower in search of their honied sweets and pleasure. At length, however, my heart smote me that I was doing wrong ; but what was I then to do? The hour for taking my seat at the desk, honourably, was gone by, and I could not recall it. It was a miserable thought, and, after retracing my steps toward the school, I stopped, seated myself on a stile, and wept.
The place I chose for this act of voluntary penance was within sight of Mr. Brown, and, espying me from the window, he forthwith despatched a messenger to recall me to my duty. But, no ! I fancied that I already saw him flourishing his rod, and could not venture within. His messenger, also, confirmed me in my fears and my obstinacy. Possessing those feelings of inhumanity, so common to boyhood, he assured me, exultingly, that “master would surely give me the birch, and that all the boys would be pleased to see me wince.” I could not doubt his veracity, so I only wept the more, and resolved that they should not have that pleasure; at least, on that day.
Whoever errs must, sooner or later, be called to an account for his transgressions. Young as I was, I felt this truth; and, after spending a sleepless night, I resolved manfully to meet my punishment, as as the school-bell again called me into my master's presence. Nor was I deterred by the repeated assurances from my fellow-scholars, as I passed along, that I should certainly “catch the rod.” I went, but I shall never forget the feelings which possessed me as I passed over the threshold of
school-room. They were a mixture of shame and fear, both of which were evident in my countenance.
However, I proceeded to hang up my hat, and to unstring my satchel, with a tolerable degree of fortitude. I had already performed these preliminaries when I was thus summoned to the desk :-“F, come here." With an alacrity worthy of a better cause, I obeyed, my eyes involuntarily cast upon the floor.
There was deep silence all over the room, and anxious expectation. But it was disappointed. Bidding me look up, my kind-hearted master demanded as he put on one of his peculiar lowering frowns, before which many an urchin culprit had trembled—whether I thought I had not acted very wrong ? “ Yes, sir," was the bold reply. “ Then go to your desk, sir,” he rejoined, as a smile half played upon his lips, and he flourished his awful rod over my head, “ and if you act thus again, rest assured you shall not escape due punishment.” “ Thank you, sir,” I replied, and, seating myself at my desk, resolved never to play truant, nor to risk the vengeance of Mr. Brown again.
It is the wisdom of all, whether in youth or in manhood, when they err, to acknowledge their errors, and that not only with respect to man, but still more to God. If mankind acted thus, generally, how much sin and misery would they escape! But, instead of this, it too frequently happens, that one crime receives the cloak of another, by which the sinner hopes to hide it. He forgets that the eye of the Almighty is allseeing, and that if he could ascend up to heaven, or make his bed in hell—if he could take the wings of the morning, and dwell beyond the
utmost seas—and if he endeavoured to wrap himself around by the thick darkness of the night, still he could not hope to escape the vengeance of Him whose presence is every where, and to whom the thick darkness and the broad glare of day are one.
I cannot think, however, that I owed my escape from the rod of Mr. Brown solely to my having frankly acknowledged my error, for I have known others do the same, and yet receive the smart of its infliction. The truth is, I was his prime favourite, and, perhaps, it was from this cause, chiefly, that the urchin crew longed to see me whipped for my folly. Envy ever waits upon favouritism like a shadow, and I have frequently felt its effects in bitter taunts and sly pinches. By the elder boys, especially, I was ironically called their 6
young_master," and they would frequently add, that I should look a fine fellow in the desk, and especially if I put on "old Dickey's spectacles.” As I was their junior by several years, and, moreover, of a diminutive stature for my age, I felt these taunts severely, and would sometimes have given all the marbles I had in my pocket not to have been a favourite.
Still this was only a momentary feeling ; at least, I was pleased at being the pet of Mr. Brown, and my face has been lit up with pleasure, when, as he frequently did, he held me up as an example to other boys. “Ned is the boy for study,” he would familiarly say, on these occasions ; “I wish you were all like him, and then my cane and rod might be thrown behind the fire.” But my chief triumph was when any friends came to see his school. As soon as I saw them pass the threshold, I knew what would follow—that I should certainly be called upon to exhibit before them.
My chief skill, at that time, was in orthography. Entick was at my fingers' ends, and, after bidding me mount my stool, that I might be seen, my kind-hearted master would direct his visitors to put any words they pleased to me, assuring them that they could not puzzle me. Many a trial of skill of this kind I have had, and, after having come off triumphantly, Mr. Brown would invariably sum up the exhibition by bidding me spell a word not to be found in the multiplied lexicons in the whole world - Honorificabilitudinity! Having accomplished this great task to my own and my master's satisfaction, I would sit down amid the plaudits of the visitors and the increased envy of my fellow-pupils. After this exhibition, indeed, I never failed to come in for a double share of ironical taunts. No sooner were we dismissed than the boys would crowd about me, and while some amused themselves by patting my hat over my face, others would call upon all around to observe what a fine fellow their young master was. Such conduct, on their part, exhibited the natural tendency of the human heart to envy, which their unsophisticated natures would not permit them to conceal ; but, at the same time, it had this salutary effect -it checked my vanity. I was then too young to reflect upon this ; but I have since thought that it was by no means wise, on the part of my teacher, to show an undue partiality for one to